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The Portrayal of PhDs in the MCU

In Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Bruce Banner declares he has seven PhD degrees. In episode 7 of What If…? (2021), Jane Foster says she is “an astrophysicist with multiple PhDs.” With such statements, both characters try to assert their worth as scientists in contrast to superheroes with superpowers. However, holding multiple PhDs would be more of an educational disorder rather than a sign of academic achievement. PhD degrees are not medals or trophies that can be accumulated to show high intellect (the logic of “the more you have, the smarter you are” does not apply here). In a way, these films portray main characters whose value resides either in their intellectual capacity or their physical strength –climatically, in Avengers: Endgame (2019), we can see how Dr. Banner is able “to put the brains and brawn together.” Clearly, the MCU does not understand how academia and higher education work because imagining a scientist with seven PhDs is a more ridiculous idea than a super soldier or a man who can fly. What does this tell us about the concept of heroism that the MCU tries to sell? Is intelligence, in the form of a PhD degree, really another gimmick (like a suit of armor or a magic hammer) that can give proof of one’s value in the realm of superhero films? Why, in summation, are PhD holders so badly represented in superhero movies?

  • A good point. I remember that statement about seven PhDs. How? That would take an incredible amount of time. When I heard that I assumed less-than-credible programs considering the amount of effort that goes into a PhD--particularly the dissertation. I was thinking of the seventeen courses for my MA and PhD, then two foreign languages (I used Statistics for one), followed by written and oral comprehensive exams, then a dissertation just under 500 pages, followed by an oral defense of it. Sure, superheroes can do it all. – Joseph Cernik 11 months ago
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  • Interesting topic. We may have to be a little bit prudent when writing this issue... I mean not to go to another extreme denying every positive indication about the person who has many Ph.D.s. For instance, this may inform us a lot of things about him: About the knowledge that that person can deal with - About the potential that he has; every Ph.D. takes a lot of effort and time - About his state of mind; he may be someone who adores learning new things and not to learn things only passively but rather with an active contribution because a Ph.D. is not just about learning what is already there but contributing somehow in revealing new things in the domain - about his ability to change and adapt and that his status was never for him the end of the story - let's consider that we are more and more in an age that needs multidisciplinary talents, in terms of problem-solving, creativity, etc... – Samer Darwich 11 months ago
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